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aroused the sleeping lion of English power. Soon afterward, the Committee on Foreign Relations submitted a report, rather spirited in its tone, commenting with some slight severity on British aggression and ambition; when we were again admonished of her fleets and armies, and the ease with which she could reduce our towns and cities to ashes.
These admonitions were effectual. Debate subsided; the first flashes of our indignation died away; and we adjourned, half regretting that we had dared to debate the subject at all.
Sir, Lord Palmerston observed all and read all that was uttered in this hall; and concluding, from the too cautious temper of that debate, that Mr. Forsyth would not be sustained in the lofty stand he had taken, determined at once to make a peremptory demand upon us—to appeal to our fears “ of the serious consequences of a refusal.” I hope in God that no action of this House, on this resolution, will ever confirm his degrading estimate of its disposition and determination to resist all foreign aggression at every hazard.
It is time, high time, for us to speak out boldly, and without reserve. England's ministry have spoken the words of burning shame to the insulted honor of this country. One of her members of Parliament has even threatened to arm our slaves, and to excite all the Indian tribes against us. And shall an American Congress be afraid to speak—afraid to call even for necessary information-lest, peradventure, it should embarrass our future negotiations ? Sir, I am free to declare that I desire to embarrass all such negotiations as have been lately going on. Were I the American Executive, my Secretary of State should never write another line in the way of negotiation, until England withdrew that degrading threat, which is yet hanging over my country, and which Mr. Webster has never had the heart to repel--all American as that heart is, according to the gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. Wise.]
But, sir, can this call, by any possibility, embarrass future negotiation? It cannot, for the resolution on its face confers on the President a boundless discretion in giving or withholding the information. Besides, a large portion of the call relates
never have been made acquainted. But, instead of this, it is highly probable that the British Government knows all about them, whilst our own countrymen are profoundly ignorant on the subject.
This mission was so extraordinary—so unlike any thing that had ever occurred under any former Administration, that curiosity alone might prompt us to inquire why a brave and gallant general of our armies had been sent off four or five hundred miles-not to meet and battle (as he had often and gloriously done) the enemies of his country, but, strange to tell, to attend to a law-suit in court. Only think of it, sir; an old soldier, covered with his scars and his honors, sent out to assist the law officer of the Government to argue a demurrer to an indictment, or to file a plea to the jurisdiction of a county court. Heavens! as the eloquent gentleman from Kentucky, (Mr. MARSHALL,] would say, “what an immortal petrefaction" of human folly!
But, sir, to be serious. Was General Scott despatched to New York for any purpose connected with the trial of McLeod ? And, if so, what could have been that purpose ? Was it to effect a release by the sword, if the Attorney General should fail to procure it by the purse? Such a purpose is incredible. What then? Why, the most probable conjecture is, that Mr. Webster had learned, from some source or other, that McLeod was to be liberated at all events, and at every hazard, by the British authorities in Canada; that, in the event of a conviction, our soil was to be again invaded, our jail at Lockport to be pulled down or burnt like the Caroline; and, if necessary, to shoot and sabre and murder our people, as they had done before !
Sir, I want to know all about this military expedition; and, if my conjecture should prove correct, then I want to know why Mr. Webster should feel so much sympathy for this Eng. lish subject, who inhumanly boasted that his sword was yet red with the blood of an American citizen,-why he should send him testimony and counsel, and render him every assistance in his power to escape justice and to elude the law. tion so to volunteer his services in behalf of one of her subjects. That would make him more like a British consul than an American Secretary of State. From that hour (if not before) when Vr. Fox declared the approval of the burning of the Caroline, and the murder of her crew, by his Government, Mr. Webster should have said: “Then go and defend McLeod yourself; employ his counsel with your own or your nation's money; collect his testimony for him yourself; henceforth and forever I leave him to his fate, to answer to the insulted and violated laws of New York in the best manner he may.” The more especially should he have said and acted in this manner, after those threats which I suppose to have given rise to General Scott's expedition to New York.
But, sir, this whole mission has been marked, throughout, not more by the most morbid and misapplied sympathy, than by the novelty and inconsistency of the duties which it imposed on the Attorney General. It is the duty of that officer to prosecute, not to defend, criminals; to give counsel to our President, and to the heads of departments—not to traverse the country for the release of foreign felons, who, at the dead hour of midnight, by boats propelled by muffled oars, invade our territory, burn our property, and imbue their hands in better blood than ever flowed in English veins.
Such are the duties of the Attorney General, as declared by the statute of 1789, What duties were assigned to him in this degrading mission-degrading to him who sent, and to him who was sent? You may find them in page 25 of document No. 1.
“ The President is impressed with the propriety of transferring the trial from the scene of the principal excitement to some other and distant country. You will take care this be suggested to the prisoner's counsel.
“Having consulted with the Governor, you will proceed to Lockport, or wherever else the trial may be holden, and furnish the prisoner's counsel with the evidence of which you will be in possession, material to his defence. You will see that he have skillful and eminent counsel, if such be not already retained; and, although you are not desired to act as counsel yourself, you will cause it to be signified to him, and to the gentleman who may conduct his defence, that it is the wish of this Government that, in case his defence is overruled by the court in which he shall be tried, proper
secret counsel-not to plead for McLeod himself, but to see that he had others, “ skillful and eminent,” to do so; that he was to furnish him with testimony; and, above all, in case of conviction, that it was the wish of the Government that the case should be taken to the Supreme Court of the United States; that the prisoner's counsel was to be told that such was the wish of the Government.
The defendant, it was supposed, might not feel sufficient anxiety to save his neck from the halter by appealing to a higher tribunal, and must, therefore, be encouraged to do so by the assurance that the Government wished him to do so.
Mr. Attorney General is to signify to him that he had better appeal than die!
Mr. Speaker, I pause to ask if, after this, you can believe that wonders will ever cease? At all events, can you believe they are likely to cease during this life-preserving, felon-saving branch of this Administration? I say nothing of its head, who had come in too unexpectedly, and was surrounded by too many perplexities at that period, to be presumed to have given much attention to this subject; but I speak emphatically of this branch of the Administration.
Mr. Speaker, I wish now to call your attention to the remaining clause of this resolution, to wit: “ whether the British Government has been given to understand that McLeod will be released or surrendered."
It is probable that the President can give us but little more than the information contained in his message. I shall, therefore, under that supposition, submit my views on the merits of the McLeod case, and the course pursued by the Secretary of State in the correspondence, as it now stands.
To understand the merits of this case, and to judge of the propriety or impropriety of the course pursued by Mr. Webster in it, we must have a clear and distinct understanding of the facts. For these, I refer you to the speech of the honorable chairman of the Ways and Means at the last session; to the statement of the case made by Mr. Webster himself; and,
tradicted there or on this floor.
“This brings me to the case before us. What is it? The facts of the case are all spread out in official documents, and the evidence is clear and undeniable. An American steam ferry-boat traverses the Niagara river; she carries passengers and property from one shore to the other. The English believe (and perhaps truly) that she carries men and arms to the insurgents in Canada; and without any appeal to our Governments, either State or Federal --without applying to us to put our own laws in force against her-an English officer, of his own head, without the knowledge of the British Government, determines to do what? Not to watch the suspected vessel, arrest her in the fact, seize the guilty and spare the innocent; but to steal upon her in the night, board her asleep, and destroy her at the American shore, under the flag of her country. In the evening of the meditated outrage volunteers are called for-fifty or sixty dashing, daring fellows--ready to follow their leader to the devil,—for that was the language used; and it proves the expedition to have been a diabolical one, and worthy to be led as well as followed by demons. The arms were sabres and pistols; the season of attack, midnight; the means of approach, light boats and muffled oars; the progress slow, silent, and stealthy, that no suspicious sound should alarm the sleeping victims. The order was death and no quarter. Thus prepared and led, they approach the boat in the dead of the night-reach her without discovery—rush on board-fly to the berths—cut, slash, stab, and shoot all whom they see-pursue the flying, and, besides those in the boat, kill one man at least upon the soil of his country, far from the water's edge. Victorious in an attack where there was no resistance, the conquerors draw the vessel into the midst of the current, set her on fire, and with all her contents—the dead, the living, the wounded, and the dying-send her in flames over the frightful cataract of the Niagara. McLeod, the man whose release is demanded from us, was (according to his own declarations, made at the time in his own country, repeated since in ours, and according to the sworn testimony of one of the survivors) an actor